By Brian Kalchik @BrianKalchik on June 10, 2014
If you could pick a starting lineup for a college football team, what would it look like? Would it be full of All-Americans or award winners? Or would it be filled with players who are perfect scheme fits at their respective positions?
However you choose, picking a starting lineup and special teams unit is hard once you know that many players won't make the cut. But I tried to do that here in my perfect starting lineup for the 2014 season.
The choice for signal-caller came down to Jameis Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and Marcus Mariota, the best dual-threat quarterback in the country. While some will choose Mariota, I am going with Winston. Winston threw for more yards (4,057) and touchdowns (40) than Mariota last year and stayed healthy the entire season. In the end, I will always go with the pocket quarterback rather than the scrambler.
In my starting lineups, I have a two-running back set, and the two I chose were Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Georgia's Todd Gurley. Gordon provides more of a speed element in the backfield, while Gurley is the prototypical thumper in the middle. When healthy, Gurley is a great back and with Gordon running behind a solid Wisconsin offensive line, these two are the best today in college football.
Both Tyler Lockett and Amari Cooper present different skill sets that are particularly effective for their respective teams. Lockett isn't the biggest receiver on the field, but he is a great route runner and can get open. He was the conference's third-leading receiver in a run-first offense. Cooper has tremendous speed, runs great routes, and can make plays on the ball as a bigger receiver. Cooper had 299 yards in the final two games of 2013.
The depth at tight end is thin this year without Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who all went to the NFL, but the best today is Florida State's Nick O'Leary. O'Leary has done it all for the Seminoles, catching passes in key situations and being an effective blocker. With players like Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene last year, O'Leary may have been the Seminoles' most dependable receiver in 2013.
Despite being overshadowed by Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews at Texas A&M, Cedric Ogbuehi has the potential to be the best out of the three as an Aggie. Ogbuehi also has the versatility to play guard if need be. On the right side, Stanford's Andrus Peat is my selection. Peat is a huge offensive lineman at 6-foot-7, plays with a ton of power, and perhaps has the highest ceiling of any offensive linemen this year.
A pair of SEC linemen make my team as the guards. On the left side, I have Alabama's Arie Kouandjio, the older brother of former Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. Arie has the athleticism to be a beast as a run-blocker if he can stay on the field. On the right side, I have Texas A&M's Jarvis Harrison. Like Kounadjio, Harrison is a mauler in the running game and has great athleticism.
Hronnis Grasu isn't the biggest or the toughest center in the game, but he's one of the more well-rounded players at his position. Oregon's offense is based off of speed, so blocking and creating running lanes is crucial, and this is where Grasu excels. Grasu can mix it up in the trenches and is athletic enough to lead running plays out in space. His versatility makes him the perfect center on this fictional team.
Moving to the defensive side, I have two of the best rushers in the country in Clemson's Vic Beasley and Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun. Although he is not known for being a run-stopper, Beasley is an excellent pass rusher who can wreak havoc off the edge. Opposite him is Calhoun, who not only can be a good pass rusher, but he is also effective as a run-stuffer off the edge. The two would mesh perfectly on this All-Star team.
In the defensive interior, I have USC's Leonard Williams and Ohio State's Michael Bennett anchoring the middle. Williams is more of a pass-rushing defensive tackle who can generate pressure up the middle. Bennett also proved he was an effective pass rusher last year despite being mostly a space-eater so that players like Ryan Shazier could make plays on the ball.
Moving to the outside linebackers, I have Oklahoma's Eric Striker and UCLA's Myles Jack as my starters. Striker fills the role of a Von Miller type player, who is a hybrid between a defensive end and an outside linebacker, and is a great blitzer. In just his second season, Jack has been one of college football's most versatile players. Having played both running back and linebacker last year, Jack knows how the run game works and how to stop it.
Not only has Denzel Perryman been great against the run, he has also been good in pass coverage. Perryman is a fast and physical linebacker who looks like former Hurricane greats like Ray Lewis, Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams. If I need a middle linebacker on my team, I am getting one from The U, a program known for churning out some of the best in recent memory.
On the outside, my corners are Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Florida State's P.J. Williams. Ekpre-Olomu can do it all. He can cover, and he's not afraid to mix it up in run support. Williams showed plenty of promise last year in just his first year as a starter; he was the MVP of the National Championship game with a crucial fourth-quarter interception. Williams has a good combination of size, speed, athletic ability and has lots of upside.
A pair of SEC safeties patrol the back end of my secondary in Alabama's Landon Collins and Mississippi's Cody Prewitt. Collins is more of a physical safety, and plays best against the run. He is also a sound tackler in run support or chasing down a receiver with great closing speed. Opposite him is Prewitt, who is more of a playmaker at safety. Prewitt finished last year as a first-team All-American and will only get better in 2014.
Rounding out my team will be special teamers Roberto Aguayo from Florida State and Drew Kaser from Texas A&M. Last season, Aguayo was a perfect 94-of-94 in extra points and made 21-of-22 field goals. Nothing else needs to be said here. At punter, Kaser gets the nod. He averaged 47.4 yards per punt last season with a long of 76 yards. Again, nothing else needs to be said here.
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